All-too-many drivers engage in reckless conduct on the road. They drive drowsy, get distracted by cell phones, and climb behind the wheel after drinking, to name just a few of the many dangerous and illegal driving behaviors that happen daily. Any one of these can lead to a deadly accident.
But of all the types of risky driving, perhaps the most common is speeding. Drivers speed on all roads, at all times, and in all weather conditions. They speed to make up time, out of frustration, for the thrill, or even without thinking about it. Virtually all of them speed without considering the high risk they run of causing a fatal accident.
#1. Speeding lengthens safe stopping distance.
The faster a vehicle moves, the more distance it needs to reach a controlled stop. Speeding cars and trucks do not have enough room to avoid a collision when a vehicle stops or a stoplight changes to red in front of them. And when the chances of a collision rise, so do the chances of that collision causing fatal injuries.
#2. Speeding shrinks a driver’s safe reaction window.
Drivers regularly encounter hazards and dangerous situations on the road that force them to react quickly to avoid a crash. The faster a vehicle travels, the less time its driver has to safely respond to hazards. If the vehicle’s speed is too high, the driver will not have enough time to avoid a crash or will execute an evasive maneuver that causes a loss of control; either scenario can end in a fatal accident.
#3. Speeding increases the violence of an accident.
As a vehicle’s rate of speed increases, so does the severity of an accident and the probability of victims suffering severe or fatal injuries. The laws of physics dictate that the faster a vehicle moves, the more force it will impart in a collision. Those same forces act on the bodies of the occupants of the vehicles involved in the crash, and as they rise, they pose an increased risk of causing fatal injuries.
#4. Speeding causes dangerous traffic conditions.
Speeding can create traffic snarls and other road hazards that make it more difficult for other drivers to navigate safely. Frequently, speeding poses dangers for vehicles traveling behind the speeding driver because those vehicles face an increased risk of needing to brake or maneuver around disruptions or accidents caused by the speeding car.
#5. Speeding leads to unpredictable driver reactions.
Other motorists frequently struggle to predict and react safely to a speeding driver’s behavior and driving patterns. Drivers often make decisions, for example, based on their expectations of when other vehicles will arrive at an intersection or the distance between them and another vehicle sharing the same lane. Speeding disrupts those expectations, leading to a chain reaction of unpredictable vehicle movements that heighten the risk of a fatal collision.
Why Do so Many Drivers Speed?
Some reasons drivers speed may seem understandable or relatable to the average driver. But in reality, those reasons rarely justify creating the risk of a fatal accident that comes with speeding.
#1. Speeding to make up time when running late.
A driver running late will often speed to shave a few minutes off a trip. But drivers frequently overestimate the time they save by speeding (especially on short trips) while underestimating the risks of fatal accidents.
In fact, in many cases, speeding fails to accomplish the goal of getting somewhere faster. We have all seen drivers speed between red lights, only to make up little to no ground compared to others driving the speed limit. This often happens because traffic lights are programmed to optimize traffic flow at a legal, safe speed. Most time “saved” by driving faster between lights is lost waiting for lights to change.
#2. Speeding out of familiarity with local roads.
Often, drivers increase their rate of speed because they feel comfortable with the road and the area. Their mistaken belief that they can navigate familiar roads safely at high speed often leads to deadly accidents. Research reveals that as many as 88 percent of car accident injuries occur within 10 miles of home.
Drivers who speed on familiar roads lack an appreciation for the effects of speed on their ability to react to unexpected road hazards, even if those hazards themselves are entirely predictable. Accidents can occur at any time. In effect, their experience driving a route many times without incident lulls them into underestimating the chances of a dangerous high-speed crash.
#3. Speeding for the thrill of it.
Some drivers speed simply for the thrill of it. They weave through traffic and power down straight roads like drag racers. These drivers do not recognize what the rest of the driving public can see: that they’re irresponsible, reckless, and dangerous. They overestimate their abilities and the capacities of their cars, and as a result, they pose an extreme risk of causing a fatal speeding accident.
#4. Speeding because overconfidence makes it seem like “no big deal.”
Sometimes, drivers speed because they think speed limits are unnecessarily low and they know what speeds are safe. Drivers in this camp think of speeding as no big deal, something everybody does. According to AAA, around 73 percent of drivers in America think of themselves as better-than-average drivers. This inflated self-judgment of driving ability leads directly to drivers treating speed limits as mere suggestions, resulting in deadly crashes.
#5. Speeding while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Drug and alcohol consumption interferes with decision-making, increases risk-taking, and impairs motor control and perception. Impaired drivers routinely drive too fast, and many fatal drunk and drugged driving accidents involve speeding.
#6. Speeding out of ignorance of speed limits.
In areas with poorly-marked speed limits, or areas where the speed limit changes suddenly, drivers may speed because they simply do not see the signs directing them to slow down. This is especially common on unfamiliar roads, or when drivers take their cues from the speed of other vehicles without recognizing the potential for encountering dangerous road hazards.
Your Rights After a Fatal Speeding-Related Accident
Speeding, whatever a driver’s reasons for it, has legal consequences. Among them is civil liability for money damages. A speeding driver who causes an accident will typically owe financial compensation to anyone harmed by his dangerous conduct. Other parties, such as the employer of a speeding driver who crashes a work vehicle, may also share that liability.
Fatal Speeding Accident Wrongful Death Actions
When a speeding-related accident results in a fatality, the at-fault driver and anyone else answerable for his conduct will typically face liability to the deceased victim’s surviving spouse, children, or other family members for the harm caused by the death. Those parties can enforce their rights through a lawsuit known as a wrongful death action.
Every state has laws governing wrongful death lawsuits. The rules vary state-to-state concerning who can file a wrongful death action, the deadline for filing, and the types and amounts of financial compensation the parties can recover.
In general, however, a wrongful death action can typically seek money damages for:
- Loss of the deceased individual’s wages, employment benefits, and other sources of current and future income;
- Loss of the value of services the deceased individual provided to a household;
- Loss of the deceased person’s guidance, companionship, and consortium;
- Funeral, burial, and other death-related expenses.
These and any other damages in a wrongful death action are usually payable directly to the surviving spouse, child, or other family members (s) who suffered harm from the death. They are also separate and distinct from any life insurance or other death benefits you and your family may receive.
If you lost a loved one to a speeding accident, speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible about your right to a wrongful death lawsuit. You may have a limited amount of time to take action.
Fatal Speeding Accident Survival Actions
The parties at fault for causing a fatal car accident can also face liability for the harm the accident inflicted on the deceased victim before death. This is called a survival action and is commonly filed in tandem with a wrongful death action.
In most states, a representative of the deceased individual’s estate-the collection of legal rights, assets, and liabilities that the individual leaves behind-pursues a survival action. As with wrongful death actions, the rules vary from state to state concerning the amounts and types of money damages it can yield.
However, typically, those damages can include:
- Accident-related expenses the deceased individual incurred before death, including medical costs for treating fatal injuries;
- The cost of repairing or replacing the deceased’s damaged property; and
- Pain and suffering the deceased individual endured before death.
Unlike wrongful death damages, survival action damages go to the deceased person’s estate, which must distribute them according to state law and the deceased’s will.
An experienced car accident lawyer can explain your rights surrounding a survival action related to the loss of your loved one in a speeding-relate car accident.
Steps to Protect Your Rights After a Fatal Speeding Accident
The tragic death of a spouse or family member in a speeding-related accident can throw your life into chaos. It’s common to feel overwhelmed by grief and stress, and you may struggle to know when and how to make potentially important decisions that could affect your rights.
Taking the steps below can often protect you and your family during this difficult time.
Beware of Liability Insurance Companies
In many speeding-related fatal accidents, the party or parties at fault will carry insurance that covers their potential liability for wrongful death and survival damages. But that does not mean that their insurance carriers will readily pay the full amount of those damages. Insurers will look for ways to minimize their financial exposure if they can.
One tactic insurance companies use to avoid paying the full amount of damages they owe for a wrongful death caused by their policyholder is to contact grieving spouses and families like you directly, offering a quick cash settlement. The amount they offer commonly falls far short of what you have the right to receive, but they put it on the table hoping to take advantage of you during a difficult moment.
Never agree to any settlement, and never sign any papers from someone else’s insurance company, without first getting advice from an experienced car accident lawyer who can protect your rights and negotiate with an insurer on your behalf.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Right Away
Your legal rights after losing a loved one in a fatal speeding accident may depend on a lawyer taking quick action on your behalf. If you wait too long to speak with an attorney, you may even risk losing your rights altogether.
An attorney who has experience representing grieving spouses and families can act as your advocate during this difficult time, giving you the time and space you need to grieve and rebuild. Contact an experienced car accident attorney in your area today for a free case evaluation.